By Jeanette Chabalala
(South Africa)- A former employee of Umgeni Water has been ordered to pay back millions he earned after he lied about his qualification.
The man was employed in the graduate programme from 2008. He resigned in 2016 after questions about his qualifications were raised.
When he first joined the programme, Umgeni Water did not validate his qualification.
A man who presented Umgeni Water with a fake chemical engineering degree has been ordered to repay the R2.2 million he earned over the eight years he worked there.
Umgeni Water dragged Sheldon Naidoo to the Pietermaritzburg High Court in a civil case, demanding that he pay back the money after it was found he forged his degree.
It said it would not have employed Naidoo in its graduate programme in 2008 if it knew he did not have an engineering degree.
The programme was designed for, and intended for, graduates, it said.
When he applied to get to the programme, Naidoo had put up a copy of his degree certificate and his academic results.
He resigned in November 2016 after he was asked about the legitimacy of his qualifications.
In his plea, Naidoo maintained that he possessed a B.Sc. degree conferred upon him by the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
He attached a degree certificate and an academic record in support of that plea.
The managing director at Umgeni Water and Naidoo’s former boss Peter Anthony Gray Thompson told the court that when Naidoo was appointed to the programme they accepted his qualifications without demur and did not validate them.
However, in 2016 things were done differently and qualifications had to be verified.
That year, Naidoo applied for the process technician post and the qualification he used to get into the graduate programme had to be verified.
But the university said it had no record of a B.Sc. Chemical Engineering degree ever being conferred upon Naidoo.
Thompson then recalled that Naidoo had initially indicated that he had lost his academic results but shortly thereafter said that he had located them, according to the judgment.
Having initially said he had family photographs of his graduation ceremony, Naidoo later said he did not attend his graduation ceremony.
In addition, he indicated that he could not recall the names of any of the people who he had worked with in his project design group.
Thompson decided to contact the university and was told Naidoo did not hold a degree awarded by it.
Thompson said he remained convinced that a simple mistake had been made.
However, after failing to prove he had a degree, Naidoo decided to resign. However, this was refused because there was a disciplinary hearing hanging over his head.
Still, a few days later, he submitted another resignation letter with immediate effect, citing ill health.
Another witness, Nonhlanhla Gladness Mofokeng, who is the acting head of central student records of the university, confirmed that Naidoo’s degree certificate was not valid.
In his ruling, Judge Rob Mossop said Naidoo was an “unimpressive witness”.
“When it was put to him that he initially told Mr Thompson that he had family snapshots of his graduation ceremony but later said that he had not attended the ceremony, his answer was that he could not remember saying that he had family snapshots.
When asked why he had not given Mr Thompson the names of the members of his design project, his initial answer was that he had not kept in touch with them.
“On the issue of his life-threatening disease, [Naidoo] was far from convincing. He and his partner knew of it, but not a single member of his family was told of it. He was invited to disclose it to the court on several occasions when cross-examined but refused to do so. He called no medical experts to confirm it.”
The judge said after careful consideration, he had no doubt Naidoo was an “untruthful witness”.
“The documentary evidence put up by the plaintiff is convincing and overwhelming in its effect. I must thus conclude that the degree certificate claimed by the first defendant to be his is a forgery, as are the academic results upon which he relies.
“I accept the academic results validated by Ms Mofokeng, and which are relied upon by [Umgeni Water], as being the true and correct history of the [Naidoo’s] academic achievements.
“He was excluded from the Faculty of Engineering in 2004 and, despite being offered the opportunity to be readmitted in 2006, never resumed his academic studies at the university. He could not have acquired his degree with the marks that he received in the three years that he spent at the university (the degree being a four-year degree) prior to being excluded.
“In the result, I must conclude that the first defendant does not have a BSc Chemical Engineering degree conferred upon him by the university,” the judge ruled, and ordered Naidoo to repay R2 203 565.04 with interest. (News24)